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Issue #1880      August 7, 2019

Taking Issue – Rob Gowland

The Great Patriotic War – Part 2

The anti-fascist alliance

The invasion of the USSR solidified the changing character of the war. Communists had been active in developing an anti-Nazi resistance in all the occupied countries, but Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union set up the conditions for a grand anti-fascist alliance to come into play. Sensing the mood of the world’s people, the governments of the anti-German democracies Hitler so despised took a huge leap to the Left and declared their willingness – nay, their eagerness − to stand with the USSR.

Victory Day celebrations in Russia.

In the countries of Europe that Hitler and Mussolini had invaded, Communists had been active in building Resistance movements, but the emphasis of the Communist parties had been on thwarting imperialist plans for a possible combined attack on the Soviet Union. Hitler’s change of strategy, signalled by Germany unilaterally breaking the non-aggression pact and launching a massive invasion of the USSR, changed the whole character of the War.

It was no longer an inter-imperialist war. It was now openly a war against fascism, with the bourgeois democracies in alliance with the Socialist USSR ranged against Germany, Hungary, Italy and Japan.

The Communists now sought to unite the various Resistance and partisan movements in the occupied territories of Europe. In many countries these had been led by various bourgeois democratic parties who declined to have anything to do with the hated Reds. But with Russia taking on the bulk of the fighting against Hitler’s forces, the Communists’ efforts to unite the anti-fascist Resistance were more readily received.

For the sake of unity, the Communists frequently took the initiative in uniting the various trends under the leadership of the bourgeois nationalist/democratic Resistance. In time, as they proved themselves in this deadly struggle, the Communists came to lead most of the European anti-fascist guerrilla forces. Only in Poland and the Baltic states were they unable to form one united Resistance.

To give themselves the greatest chance of success, the Nazis had invaded the USSR on the longest day of the year in mid-summer. They expected the campaign to be brief: after all, they had conquered the rest of Europe in next to no time. But Russia was vast and the Red Army continued to resist despite losing enormous amounts of land, men and materiel.

A Soviet woman said to me once, “you have no idea of the horror that was coming towards us!” Women were routinely raped, children routinely murdered, captured officers routinely executed. German soldiers proudly posed for photographs amidst the bodies of Russian civilians they had massacred. In every town or village they captured, the members of the local Soviet were hanged or shot.

Soviet prisoners of war were denied POW status, and either killed or sent to concentration camps as slave labour. Soviet civilians were also sent as slaves to Germany, to further the Nazis’ dreams of the new “German empire”, the Thousand Year Reich.

To the surprise of German (and Western) experts, it was found that Soviet planes could fly in freezing weather, thanks to special fuels, Red Army soldiers were equipped with warm clothing in plenty of time for winter, Soviet Katyusha rocket artillery was accurate and very deadly, and the Red Army seemed to have plenty of them, the heavily-armoured Stormovik fighter-bomber was a flying tank unlike anything in Western arsenals, and the basic weapon of the Red Army was the sub-machine gun rather than the rifle.

And the Soviet T34 tank was acknowledged as the best in the world, so much so that the Germans shipped a captured one back to Berlin and endeavoured to make their own version for the Werhmacht!

For the people of the world who were not under fascist domination, the tenacious struggle put up by the Red Army and the Soviet people was an inspiration and a subject for great admiration. In Australia, the ban on the Communist Party was finally repealed as Communist speakers were being invited to share the speakers’ platform at anti-Nazi meetings with speakers from the RSL. In cinemas, newsreels showing Stalin as leader of the Russians’ heroic struggle against the invading Nazis were invariably applauded.

While the USSR was bearing the brunt of the fight against Nazi Germany’s attempt at world conquest, leaving a staggering 26 million Soviet citizens dead and thousand of towns, cities and villages devastated or even destroyed utterly, the world’s Communists and many other folk were campaigning for the opening of a second front. Imperialism, however, was in no rush to relieve the pressure on its “gallant ally”.

Only when it appeared that any further delay might result in the Red Army liberating the whole of Europe unaided did the D-Day landings come about. Even then, the Soviet military continued to fight the most significant Nazi forces. British imperialism, led by Churchill, even connived to let German troops who surrendered to the British retain their weapons in the hope of Britain being able to use these German troops to carry on the war, this time against Russia.

The world’s people would have none of it, however, and amidst rejoicing, the Second World War stopped. Imperialism, however, thought it had a card up its sleeve: the A-bomb. More of that, however, next time.

Next article – Exclusion orders are a bad omen

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